Previous research has led to the idea that derived traits can arise through the evolution of novel roles for conserved genes. We explored whether neuropeptide Y (NPY)-like signalling, a conserved pathway that regulates food-related behaviour, is involved in a derived, nutritionally-related trait, the division of labour in worker honey bees. Transcripts encoding two NPY-like peptides were expressed in separate populations of brain neurosecretory cells, consistent with endocrine functions. NPY-related genes were upregulated in the brains of older foragers compared with younger bees performing brood care (‘nurses’). A subset of these changes can be attributed to nutrition, but neuropeptide F peptide treatments did not influence sugar intake. These results contrast with recent reports of more robust associations between division of labour and the related insulin-signalling pathway and suggest that some elements of molecular pathways associated with feeding behaviour may be more evolutionarily labile than others.